As Bruce Robison's THE NEW WORLD kicks off, you notice something different: It's up-tempo. Robison is perhaps best known for a mellower style, one that matches his lyrics: deep, provacative, relaxing and yet somewhat distressing at the same time. The more upbeat, rockin' songs have been somewhat sparse, starting with COUNTRY SUNSHINE (which stands, perhaps, as his best record).
Well, the rock is here. Or, rather, the honky tonk. Or the shuffle. Or whatever you want to call it. Oh, there are still instrospective ballads built around an acoustic guitar and sparse instrumentation: "Hanging On Hopeless" (the one track Robison did not write), even "Larosse" to an extent. The two other ballads offer something a bit different: "Bad Girl Blues" is (of course) rather bluesy, and "Echo" is a tragic ballad in the old style, complete with thoughtful, almost epic lyrics.
But what the listener picks up on (and largely retains, even though all the songs previously mentioned are superbly-written), is the uptempo material. "Only" has a definite bluegrass feel; "The New One" and "She Don't Care" (the latter appeared on an album by Tyler England a long time ago) are honky tonk shuffles; and "Twistin" is a groovy sixties-style rock number. "California 85" is a breezy number, reminiscent of 70's rock.
Does it sound like Robison is living in the past? Perhaps; mainly because he is so much more talented than all the other country songwriters working today. He's had success as a songwriter (George Strait has proven to be his latest champion), but its his own records that place him in the great pantheon of country songwriters. Perhaps his lyrics lean a bit towards the folk side of things; that's just because they are far more honest than anything you hear on the radio today. THE NEW WORLD is definitely Robison's best since COUNTRY SUNSHINE, and is sure to offer up some introspective delights to anyone lucky enough to give it a listen.